How cities and urbanization have become favoured subjects for artistic expressions

PHOTO CREDIT : An invisible landscape conditions the visible one by Naiza Khan

The author is an award-winning visual artist and writer based in Lahore whose work focuses on world literature.

Art has always been a reliable means of archiving change. Consciously or inadvertently, artists document sociocultural changes, not only through the work itself, but also by absorbing into their artistic vocabularies the new visual materials that accompany any major shift from one way of living to another. This is mainly because the process of artistic creation is invariably organic; it is affected by the environment, the sights, the smells and the sounds that surround an artist.

Even if an artist’s work is deeply embedded in fantasies and dreamscapes, fragments from their contemporaneous, real life will find their way into their work, just as they will into their fantasies and dreams. I am reminded of the image of the portentous train in so many of Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings. Moving slowly and emitting a single, robust plume of smoke, his black train serves as an eerie backdrop for empty arcades and other disparate objects that seem to come together in his work largely through dream logic. No matter how far the artist strays into a surreal world of statues and late-afternoon shadows, an engine and a few compartments pursue him as a reminder of the real world marked by technology.

The works of Lahore-based artist R M Naeem have a similar air about them: ubiquitous road and traffic signs in many of his paintings seem to convey how the ordinariness of the physical world governs the lives and decisions of his sleepwalking characters.